By David Spereall, local democracy reporter
Lengthy waiting lists for child swimming lessons in Leeds have been partly blamed on a shortage of qualified teachers.
Leeds City Council said it was trying to train more swimming teachers “every month” in a bid to grow capacity.
The news comes just days after the Swimming Teachers Association (STA) and Swim England said there were 12,000 vacancies across the country – a shortage the latter said needed “urgent” attention.
A backlog of lessons dating back to Covid, when pools were shut, is also a factor behind the waiting list, councillors on Leeds’ adults and health scrutiny board were told on Tuesday.
Steve Baker, head of the council’s leisure arm, Active Leeds, said: “We do have waiting lists across the board in terms of swimming lessons.
“We’ve now 1,500 more children learning to swim than what we had pre-pandemic.
“There is a backlog from Covid when people weren’t able to get in the pool. We’re just trying to catch up on that front.”
“There are workforce issues which prohibit us a bit, because we don’t have the volume of teachers coming through to enable us to grow capacity.
“But we’ve made some big improvements. We are now training a lot more swimming teachers every month.”
Mr Baker said 90 per cent of schools across the city were using council-run pool for swimming lessons, while the leisure centre workforce is becoming more diverse.
He added: “There are some challenges still, but we are starting to make some headway in terms of the waiting lists.”
Last week, the Swimming Teachers Association said more than 600,000 children across the country could be missing out on lessons. It warned many of those youngsters “may never learn a skill that could one day save their life”.
Dave Candler, the STA’s CEO, said: “The issue of swimming teacher shortages has been a subject of concern for the leisure industry for many years, with the pandemic exacerbating the problem as our initial research in 2021 identified.